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Pick the best nail strengthener with these tips

The Beauty Brains, authors of “Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm? Top Cosmetic Scientists Answer Your Questions about the Lotions, Potions and Other Beauty Products You Use Every Day” gave their fool-proof tips for everything you need to know about nail strengtheners. Check out their tips and find out how to get flawless, healthy nails.

Woman using nail hardener

Getting a mani-pedi is expensive and time consuming, so when you opt to do them yourself, make sure you’re protecting your nails with the right nail strengthening product. There are two basic kinds of strengtheners — hardeners and hydrators. By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each type, you’ll be able to pick the one that’s right for you.

How hardeners work

Sally Hansen's Nail Nutrition Green Tea and BambooCross-linking hardeners: This kind of hardener works on the inside of the nail with ingredients that react with the protein in your nails. When your nails are weak, the protein is like a ladder with broken rungs — the ladder feels loose and wobbly. But you can make the ladder sturdier by adding extra rungs to connect the two sides. That’s what cross linkers do to your nails. They create chemical bonds that tie the protein chains together, thus making the nails harder.

Reinforcing hardeners: This kind of hardener works on the outside of the nail with ingredients that coat the nail. This kind of hardener works like a a splint on a broken bone by adding a layer on top of your nails that reinforces their natural structure.

Issues with hardeners

The issue with cross linkers is that the nail can become so hard that it becomes brittle and unable to bend. If this happens, the nail will break more easily. The issue with reinforcers is that they wear off and need to be reapplied often to continue to be effective. Three great hardeners are Sally Hansen’s Nail Nutrition Green Tea and Bamboo, OPI’s Maintenance Nail Envy Nail Strengthener and Nutra Nail Strengthener with Green Tea.

How hydrators work

Barielle Nail Strengthener Cream,

Hydrators work with ingredients that moisturize the nail to keep it flexible so it bends rather than breaks. These products are oily and waxy materials mixed with water.

Issues with hydrators

Hydrators need to be used on an ongoing basis for maximum effect. As with any moisturizing product, they need to be reapplied because they wear off over time and wash away. Great hydrators for nails include Barielle Nail Strengthener Cream, Hard As Hoof Nail Strengthening Cream and Ecrinal Nail Cream.

Hardener or hydrator?

Use a hardener if you want a quick fix that is a more permanent solution. Just be aware that your nails may become more brittle over time. Use a hydrator if you want your nails to have more flexible strength and you don’t mind having to apply the product several times before you see much of a difference.

Choosing a strengthener

Now that you know how strengtheners work, you can look for the one that’s best for you. Unfortunately, most products do not tell you which type they are. We’ll teach you how to tell which type of strengthener is which with these three answers below.

1Is it a hardener or a hydrator?

  • Look at the product: If it’s clear, it’s a hardener. If it’s creamy like a lotion, then it’s a hydrator.
  • Shake the product: If it’s thin and shakeable like a nail polish, then it’s a hardener. If it’s thick like an oil or a cream, it’s a hydrator.
  • Look at the package: If it’s a brush-on type, it’s a hardener. If it’s in a tube or a jar, it’s a hydrator.

2If it’s a hardener, is it the kind that makes your nails brittle?

If you see any of the following ingredients on the back of the bottle, it works by cross-linking nail protein which can make nails more brittle:

  • Formaldehyde
  • Calcium

3Is it the kind that leaves a reinforcing layer?

If you see any of the following ingredients (but none of the ones listed above), it’s a reinforcer.

  • Nylon
  • Sulfhydryl protein
  • If the ingredients look like a typical nail polish ingredient list, it’s most likely a reinforcer type as well.

Purchase the “Can You Get Hooked On Lip Balm?” book here >>

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